Metabolic Health

The Side Effects of taking Insulin

Reviewed by

Shifa Fathima

Why do we need Insulin?

A healthy human body produces insulin to regulate the transportation of glucose from the blood into the cells. However, in diabetes, insulin may not be available for the effective movement of blood glucose into the cells. It leads to elevation of blood glucose levels and subsequent complications. Prolonged elevation of blood glucose can lead to several complications as follows:

  • Kidney damage
  • Nerve conditions
  • Blindness
  • Non-healing wounds leading to loss of limbs
  • Sexual problems
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks

In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas loses the ability to produce adequate insulin. The individual needs insulin supplementation for life to ensure glucose uptake from the blood. The onset of type 2 diabetes is usually in middle age.

In this condition, the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or the available insulin is not helpful. In addition to these lifelong conditions, insulin therapy is also effective in gestational diabetes, insulin resistance, and diabetic ketoacidosis.

Insulin Side Effects

Before we dive deeper into the side effect profile of insulin, let us know the common side effects of using insulin as a long term treatment option in type 1 and type 2 diabetes:

  •  Hypoglycemia : Present in over 40% of individuals using insulin
  •  Weight Gain : Seen in approximately 33% of insulin users
  •  Headache : may be present in up to 33% of insulin users
  •  Flu-like Symptoms : These may be experienced by up to 13% of patients using insulin

One can appreciate from the above data that hypoglycemia is the commonest insulin side effect that may cause severe complications. Let us discover the side effects of insulin by considering different parameters.

1. General Side effects of Insulin

Insulin use may lead to weight gain and increase in body fat. Sudden restoration of glucose control in individuals who did not have normal glucose levels in the past may cause swelling after initiation of insulin therapy. More efficient utilization of calories because of insulin therapy can also result in weight gain. 

1. Heart-related Side Effects

Insulin may cause accentuation of cardiac side effects such as narrowing and hardening of cardiac arteries with the buildup of plaque (atherosclerosis). Moreover, insulin may contribute to hypertension by supporting other risk factors.

2. Endocrine Side Effects

The endocrine-related side effect of insulin is hypoglycemia, as mentioned earlier. It is more common in patients with type 2 diabetes who are more prone to experience hypoglycemia following insulin therapy. Hypoglycemia causes sweating and confusion and is easily recognizable. Reversal of hypoglycemia is possible by consuming sweets. However, there can be fatal complications if the individual cannot recognize the symptoms of hypoglycemia. There is also a possibility of some renal (kidney) side effects because of insulin-induced hypoglycemia. 

3. Dermatologic Side Effects of insulin

Because insulin has a role in the formation of fat, one may experience collection of fat in some areas as a side effect of insulin. Frequently changing the insulin injection site or using a purer form of insulin may reduce the incidence of this side effect. 

FAQs

1.  What are the long-term side effects of Insulin?

Long-term use of insulin therapy to achieve blood glucose control in type 2 diabetes patients may increase the risk of cardiovascular disorders and some cancers. These side effects are more likely in patients with a history of heart problems.

2.  Is Insulin harmful to the body?

Insulin has a remarkable potential to lower blood glucose with no severe side effects in most individuals. However, excess insulin in the blood or hyperinsulinemia may elevate the risk of obesity and cardiac side effects.

3.  Why is taking Insulin bad?

Insulin drives glucose in the blood into cells. As the cells absorb more glucose, there is a possibility of hypoglycemia if insulin administration is at the wrong time. Failure to consume food after insulin injection causes a severe drop in blood glucose levels. Insulin also causes an increase in the risk of heart conditions, stroke, and eye complications.

4.  Does Insulin impact your kidneys?

Consistently high blood glucose levels lead to kidney damage in diabetes. Insulin therapy helps achieve predictable control of blood glucose levels and may prevent the development of kidney disorders.

Book a Free Session

Back to Top

1-on-1 call with our health counsellor